The Symposium takes place on the third floor of the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old U.S. Mint.
Friday, August 4th
11:30 am The Vocal Artistry of Louis Armstrong, From a Vocalist’s Perspective – Grammy Award winner Catherine Russell brings the perspective of deep roots in music and decades as a professional singer to her exploration of Louis Armstrong’s many vocal innovations. She’ll play and talk about selections that highlight Pops’ immense talent as a timeless interpreter of song.
12:30 pm Swing Era “Pops” Revisited – 1935 to 1945 was in some ways the lost decade of Satchmo’s long career. Overlooked and undervalued by jazz historians, perhaps, but not lost on Armstrong, who reflected back upon these years as containing highlights, breakthroughs, and milestones. Recently discovered radio broadcasts of Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra in early 1938 illuminate Satchmo’s supremacy during this era and will be premiered and played here for the first time. Musician, songwriter and jazz historian Paul Kahn presents.
1:30 pm A Conversation with Gary Giddins – Armstrong biographer and jazz journalist Gary Giddins talks about his about his life and work with writer and interviewer Jon Pult. In addition to writing for several publications including The New Yorker, Esquire, The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Village Voice, Giddins has served as artistic director of the American Jazz Orchestra and Executive Director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the CUNY Graduate Center, where he has taught since 2011.
2:30 pm Unraveling the Dawn of Recorded Jazz: a Centennial Tribute – In honor of the centennial of recorded jazz, trombonist and jazz historian David Sager will chronicle the development of jazz on record from its early-1900s precursors, up through the advent of Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five. Special focus will be on the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, placing their pioneering 1917-18 recordings in the musical context of its time, contrasting their style with contemporaneous recordings by other groups.
3:30 pm “And I Think to Myself What A Wonderful World”: Louis Armstrong’s Belgian Collage – While Louis Armstrong is best known for his singing and trumpet playing, he was also known to be an engaging, witty writer as well as artful bricoleur of collages. Using boxes of Ampex reel-to-reel tape as canvas, he compiled around 500 collages that served as a visual diary of his concerts and anything he wished to document, including ads for his beloved Swiss Kriss laxative. Among his many collages, one holds a visual impression of Brussels, Belgium’s capital. What at first appears to be just another collage dedicated to a concert location, upon closer inspection is rather remarkable. Jazz bassist and historian Matthias Heyman will detail the visual codes embedded in the collage – and use it as a lens on the jazz community in 20th century Belgium.
4:30 Video Pops – Day 1: RickyLeaks! – The Best of Louis Armstrong in Europe – Celebrating his tenth appearance at Satchmo SummerFest, writer, historian, and archivist Ricky Riccardi will kick things off by dipping into his secret stash to showcase some of the best – and rarest – videos of Louis Armstrong performing live in Europe with his All Stars in the 1950s and 60s!
Saturday, August 5th
11:30 am George Avakian and Louis Armstrong -Through a variety of video interviews, bandleader David Ostwald presents a profile of George Avakian, the greatest record producer of all time, whose longstanding friendship with Louis Armstrong uniquely positioned him to fashion Armstrong’s recorded legacy at its most exquisite. Avakian will recount his travels with Armstrong, their personal and professional relationship, and why Armstrong stood tall among the hundreds of artists and entertainers Avakian recorded.
12:30 pm Trading Fours: Artistic trends of Louis Armstrong and Romare Bearden – Louis Armstrong pieced together collages on the reel-to-reel tape boxes of recordings he made on the road. This seemed the perfect medium to “cover” the homemade recordings that were collages themselves- mixtures of musical clips and Armstrong in conversations. Romare Bearden, one of the foremost artists of the 20th Century, is known best for his use of collage and depictions of African American life and culture. Bearden was also an avid jazz fan, and improvisational music influenced the compositional structure in his visual works. And as part of a song writing team, he wrote several jazz tunes in the 1950’s. Romare Bearden Foundation Co-Director Diedra Harris-Kelley explores how both artists worked from the great tradition of improvisation and were true American originals who had talent enough to excel in areas beyond their chosen focus.
1:30 pm Louis Armstrong as Music Critic – Armstrong didn’t just play jazz. He was also a great commentator on the music and an astute critic as well. Thanks to his habit of keeping extensive diaries and notebooks we have access to many of his thoughts about the ideas behind some of his most historic recordings as well as his observations about many of the early performers of jazz. This presentation by award-winning music writer, critic and author John Swenson will include excerpts from Armstrong’s music criticism and musical illustrations that correspond to them.
2:30 pm Daryl and Dan do Ella and Louis -The singer-pianist (Daryl Sherman) and the historian (Dan Morgenstern) will attempt to illuminate why this is the greatest jazz vocal duo ever – and how the legendary recordings came about.
3:30 pm Baby, It’s Cold Outside: The Life and Times of Velma Middleton -Velma Middleton was born in Holdenville, Oklahoma and raised in St. Louis. She joined the Louis Armstrong Orchestra in 1942 – and when he formed the All Stars in 1947, was a featured member of the group until her 1961 death in Sierra Leone while on a State Department tour of Africa with the band. We know that Louis loved Velma and that she was considered “part of the family.” But there is surely more to know about Velma Middleton, including her life and experiences before joining the All Stars. Jazz historian and archivist Maxine Gordon looked into it – and shares her findings during this presentation.
4:30 pm “What a Wonderful World”: The First Fifty Years – Today, “What a Wonderful World” is perhaps the song most associated with Louis Armstrong. But Louis didn’t think much of it when he first saw the music. In fact, it didn’t become a hit until used in the Good Morning, Vietnam soundtrack twenty years later. Ricky Riccardi will play home-recorded tapes of Louis singing and commenting upon “Wonderful World,” show photos of the manuscript music that Louis held while recording it, screen rare video of Louis’s performances, and much more. This presentation is in conjunction with “50 Years of ‘What a Wonderful World,’” an exhibition at the Louis Armstrong House Museum through October 2017.
5:30 pm Video Pops – Day 2: Louis Armstrong on the Mike Douglas Show–1964 – In 1964, Louis Armstrong co-hosted “The Mike Douglas Show” for a full week. Armstrong historian Ricky Riccardi will showcase rare highlights from these shows, including many musical treats and some hilarious interview footage of Louis at his best.
Sunday, August 6th
11:30 am “A Closer Walk:” A Gift to New Orleans and Music Lovers Everywhere – A Closer Walk is a new, interactive website about New Orleans music history with location-based content written and curated by a team of experts. Music-lovers can read descriptions of historic sites by acclaimed music writers, see rare photos of landmarks in their heyday, listen to music and oral histories with artists, and watch videos and interviews. Writer and philanthropist Randy Fertel was part of the team that developed this new resource. He details its development and content in this presentation.
12:30 pm “When Louis Came Home—Round 2: Reflections on Civil Rights” – Björn Bärnheim in Conversation with Bruce Raeburn. Swedish jazz enthusiast and researcher Björn Bärnheim has been investigating the circumstances leading to Louis Armstrong’s return visits to his hometown of New Orleans and closely tracking his activities there, leading to many new revelations about his values and behavior. In round two of this extended presentation, Bärnheim concentrates on Armstrong’s growing consciousness of civil rights issues following his reign as King Zulu in 1949. Bruce Raeburn will facilitate discussion of Bärnheim’s findings with visual illustrations.
1:30 pm Hotter Than That: Innovation in the Music of Lil Hardin-Armstrong – Lil Hardin-Armstrong is an important figure in the formation of jazz music. As a pianist, composer, arranger, and bandleader, she worked with leading bands in the 1920s, most notably in King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. While her influence on her then husband, Louis Armstrong, is a celebrated topic, her music and career deserve a greater focus. Born in Memphis TN, she was a classically trained pianist educated at Fisk University. Her piano style provided an anchor for Oliver’s band, while her compositions helped create a unique sound of the era. Hardin-Armstrong excelled as a bandleader and soloist, and appeared in several Broadway shows and released albums. Pianist and Tulane University music professor Courtney Bryan leads us through a wide-ranging exploration of her career and contributions.
2:30 pm A Glorious Collaboration: Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers – Hailing from Piqua, Ohio, the four Mills brothers began singing in their father’s barber shop. In the late 30s, when the quartet joined forces with Louis Armstrong in the studio, musical heaven was created. Author and educator Mick Carlon’s talk will discuss the history of the Mills Brothers—who after brother John Junior’s death became three brothers and their father, John Senior—plus the “glories and stories” of the songs upon which they collaborated.
3:30 pm Farewell to Storyville – Clarinet crusader Evan Christopher and friends survey musical lore from the fabled New Orleans “District.” Though it closed a century ago, Storyville was open for business, and home to a thriving musical scene, the first sixteen years of Louis Armstrong’s life.
4:30 pm Video Pops – Day 3 – Louis Armstrong on the Mike Douglas Show – In 1970, only a year before he passed away, Louis Armstrong returned to co-host “The Mike Douglas Show.” Ricky Riccardi closes out the Satchmo Symposium with incredible clips of Louis singing many favorites, chatting with Artie Shaw, duetting with Shari Lewis and Lambchop, jamming with Pete Fountain and cooking red beans and rice with his wife Lucille. Not to be missed!